How does climate change and sustainability feature in primary and intermediate school classrooms and whole-school practices?
We asked teachers and principals a few questions about climate change and sustainability as part of the 2019 NZCER national survey of English-medium primary and intermediate schools.
- Many principals and teachers think climate change will have moderate to major impacts in their students’ lifetimes.
- Half of the principals said their school supports students who choose to take part in climate action such as school strikes.
- Many schools have a focus on practices such as waste reduction and gardening activities. Other areas that could reduce schools’ climate impacts may be harder for schools to act on individually; for example, improvements to energy efficiency, reducing resource consumption or managing travel-related emissions
- Teacher responses indicate that while sustainability and the environment are a focus in classrooms, climate change is less of a focus, particularly for students in the junior years.
- Teachers were more likely to say their students undertook direct actions for the environment, and less likely to say their students undertook social actions for the environment.
Principals expressed a range of suggestions for system-wide changes or transitions that might be needed in response to climate change. These included:
- system-wide approaches to improving infrastructure efficiency
- making climate change response a bigger priority across the system and embedding it into all school decisions, and
- approaches to curriculum and pedagogy that support localised actions, critical and creative thinking, and empowerment of young people and communities.
Key findings are summarised in this infographic.